In Recovery:  Part 7 Cherry Street I

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From jail, to the end of my treatment in 3 different V.A. Treatment Centers, this part of My Story uncovers the journey of my recovery. I vividly, and candidly chronicled my day to day struggles with recovery, mental health, amends, and dealing with the V.A. empire on my blog from October of 2016, to the end of 2017. You can find these musings in the Archives. However, in the coming weeks, I look back at those experiences and give you a more coherent story of my life In Recovery. I look back on that year with more insight as to what was happening, and share with you the principles and actions that built the foundation for my ongoing recovery.

Before RecoveryPart 1: A ProblemPart 2: Jail TimePart 3: Reality CheckPart 4: VA Program
Pt. 5: Jamaica PlainPt. 6: Brockton IPt 6: Brockton IIPt 6: Brockton IIIPt. 7: Cherry St. I
Pt. 7: Cherry St. IIPt. 7: Cherry St. III
Entrance to Northampton VA
Northampton VA and Cherry Street
View From Cherry St. Porch

I arrived at the Cherry Street CWT Program towards the end of April of 2017 with high hopes for seamlessly gaining my autonomy. Boy, would the next 7 months be as challenging as it could ever get for me in my recovery. Cherry Street is the name of the location of a three story split residence that housed male Veterans in the VA treatment program.

Having actually changed VAs, I had to start all over with a new support team, new therapist, new everything. It was quite the adjustment for me to go from dorm living to apartment living.

The building that Cherry Street occupied was massive. It had four separate entrances. It had three floors each. The residents numbered about about 12 of us. Each having a room of our own. I ended up on the third floor, by myself fortunately.

The main campus, the VA in Northampton (or Leeds more accurately), was to be the site of our therapies and participation in CWT. The program is strictly geared towards establishing safety and security, and moving rapidly towards independent living.

All the participants were assigned a Social Worker, Psychiatrist, Primary Care Physician and Case Worker. This was a so-called “dream team” of professionals whose main objective was to ensure wellness and strengthen our individual recoveries through the use of Compensated Work Therapy: CWT is basically a paid job at the VA without having taxes taken out of your pay.

Kurt the Conqueror
Kurt Z at Cherry Street by Robert Levasseur
Kurt Z.

Kurt Z. was my Case Manager who had a Napoleon complex. He was a very short and tiny man with a big ego. I disliked him upon first meeting. That disdain only grew exponentially with each mandate he attempted to use to control is “subjects” at Cherry Street. His female counterpart, Kristine W., was cut from the same cloth.

Kurt operated Cherry Street, a VA Program whose policies are mandated by VA Regulations, as if it were his own special island with special rules made up just by him. I would end up vehemently attacking his departure from VA Regulations in the coming months.

Kurt was a “my way or the highway” dictator who did not adjust well to those who challenged his authority. His demeanor was not of a helpful Caseworker, but that of a Conqueror who knew what you needed better than you knew yourself. Over the coming months I waged different wars of self-advocacy to combat Kurt’s omnipotence and penchant for always being right.

Dr. A.M. Psychiatrist Un-Extraordinaire

If Kurt Z. operated Cherry Street like a mini Napoleon, Dr. M. was certainly his sidekick. I was assigned Dr. M. as my psychiatrist because, well, he’s everyone’s psychiatrist. Talk about a wet can of paint. Watching paint dry was more exciting than talking to this bozo.

Psychiatry at Cherry Street Northampton by Robert Levasseur
Unextraordinary Psychiatry

I mean, truly, he was the worst psychiatrist I have ever had in my life. By the end of May, 2017, it was apparent that he was certainly no Dr. Ticlea or my other psychiatrist that I had during my time at the Reach Program in Brockton.

You could ask him 5 questions in a row and he would not have an answer for any of them. A psychiatrist is not only a prescriber, they are also trained to do SOME therapeutic work. Not so with Dr. M. He was all business and no empathy. Didn’t matter what was troubling you. He struck me as an individual who was exhausted with his position and should have retired years ago.

Lyn D. Vocational Specialist
Cherry Street room by Robert Levasseur
My Room at Cherry Street

The only person who seemed to be of the high quality VA professional one can only hope for, was Lyn D. Lyn was to be my Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist. That means she would handle everything coinciding with my CWT experience while I was at Cherry Street.

Lyn was highly reliable. She was also extremely dedicated to her work and the Veterans she represented. I can tell you that she was a bright light in an otherwise very dark recovery room for me during my 7 months at Cherry Street. She tried to do everything she could for me.

In the end, Kurt was the Program Director and nothing escaped his tunnel vision and some of the decisions that he would make–all the while denying that he was the one responsible for those decisions.

I think towards the end of my time at Cherry Street, Lyn had decided to leave the VA for greener pastures. I can’t say that I blame her one bit. Working in that dog-and-pony-show program, with Kurt the Conqueror at the helm, must have certainly made for interesting staff meetings. Especially when it came to discussing me.

Last Few Blog Posts While In Recovery:

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Part 7: Cherry St. II


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